Watson hopes for more ODI hurrahs
As Shane Watson walked out onto the MCG with nine runs needed to win the World Cup final, he stopped and shook the hand of Michael Clarke, the outgoing batsman. Clarke and Watson are both 33, were once captain and vice-captain together, yet have never been bosom buddies. Here they were, about to win a World Cup together, one finishing his ODI career, the other clinging on.
That Watson was at the crease when the winning runs were struck against New Zealand was a remarkable turnaround. Less than a month earlier, he had been axed from the one-day side for the match against Afghanistan in Perth, Mitchell Marsh and James Faulkner preferred as allrounders and Watson's 13-year ODI career seemed to be coming to an end.
But a recall against Sri Lanka four days later, led to a score of 67 in Australia's win and Watson's unbeaten 64 in the quarter-final victory over Pakistan in Adelaide was especially important. Watson survived a fiery spell of bouncers from Wahab Riaz, including being dropped at fine leg, but stuck out his innings and played an important role in Australia's progression.
As the Australians celebrated their World Cup triumph on Monday at a public event in Melbourne's Federation Square, Watson reflected on his up-and-down campaign. Asked if he wondered what might have been had he failed to get through that Wahab spell, Watson conceded he had been fortunate.
"I had a lot of luck, especially through those first few overs, to get through that innings," Watson said. "I'm glad I did get that luck because it worked out well, for not just me but the team as well. It's the most important [ODI innings] I've played. I had a lot of luck through that stretch, but it was the most important innings that I have played at home. To be able to get through a semi-final - I knew how important it was to stay in."
Watson soaked up the atmosphere around the packed MCG during the final on Sunday, facing five balls for his two runs as Australia cruised to victory. He did nothing silly and was thrilled to see Steven Smith hit the winning boundary with seven wickets in hand, securing Watson's place as a two-time World Cup winner after he was part of the 2007 triumph.
"We still had 20 overs to go. I wanted to make sure I was there at the end, to think I had a chance to be there in a World Cup final at home, whether I hit the winning runs or not, it was very special to be there when it happened," Watson said. "I wasn't going to get out playing a reckless shot trying to hit the winning runs."
While Marsh's emergence as a Test player will maintain the pressure on him in that format, Watson hopes there will be further chances for him in the one-day game and that he will not be following Clarke in having the 2015 World Cup final as his last ODI.
"I hope the selectors continue to pick me," he said. "Even when I got dropped, for me personally I knew it wasn't the end. I knew I was very close to being able to turn it around. But I was very lucky to get another opportunity. Hopefully I've still got a lot of really good cricket left in me."
Watson, Clarke, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson were the only Australians from the 2007 World Cup-winning squad to repeat their triumph this year, and Watson said both events had left indelible memories.
"The first one was very special in the West Indies, but to be able to play a World Cup at home and win here is what dreams are made of," he said. "We're very lucky to have been born at the right time to be able to play in this. For us to play as well as we have this whole tournament and win, dream come true."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale